The Best 3 Day Trips From Tauranga

Are you looking for day trips from Tauranga? We stopped at Tauranga cruise port as part of our Australia New Zealand Cruise on Celebrity Solstice, and there are a variety of tours depending on interests and budget.

Tauranga is one of New Zealand’s busiest cruise ports and serves as a transit point for the historical harbour city of Tauranga and the geothermal springs of Rotorua. Situated in the Bay of Plenty region, it is the fifth most populous city of New Zealand and offers some of New Zealand’s finest beaches for swimming, surfing, and other water sports. Mount Maunganui is among the best-known beaches in the country.

Tauranga means ‘place of rest or anchorage’ in Māori, which is apt considering the city is virtually surrounded by water.

Where do the Cruise Ships Dock in Tauranga?

Cruise ships dock at Mount Maunganui port; just a few minutes walk to the town. A local bus operates to Tauranga, which is about 7 km away.

There are three main options for the Tauranga cruise port. The first is to stay close to the ship and explore Mount Maunganui, the second is to visit Tauranga, and the third is to do a day tour to Rotorua. We stayed on an extra week after the cruise and spent a few days in Rotorua, so we decided to stay in Mount Maunganui and explore that area.

Mount Maunganui waterfront close to cruise ship port
Mount Maunganui waterfront

Day Trips from Tauranga option 1 – Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui Maoao

This extinct volcano is an easy 15-minute walk from the port along the foreshore and offers a few different walking tracks. This historic site is owned by Maori and rises 232 meters from the sea.

Mount Maunganui

The 3.4km walk around the base track takes around 45 minutes and is one of the most popular short walks in New Zealand. It’s an easy walk and suitable for strollers as well as wheelchairs. It will take you past ocean views, beach inlets as well as magnificent pohutukawa trees.

The other tracks lead up to the summit, where you will see stunning 360-degree views of the Bay of Plenty. The harbour to Tauranga and the Kaimai Range is also visible from up there.
The best two tracks to take are either the Oruahine or Waikorire.

This free walk website explains the tracks in detail and provides lots of photos of the hike.

Make sure you take plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat as it can get warm. It took us around 45 minutes with stops to take photos on the way. The view is superb from the summit so allow time to relax and take it all in. If you bring food with you, bear in mind there aren’t any rubbish bins so you will need to take it back. Make use of Public toilets at either Pilot Bay or in front of the surf lifesaving club on the beachfront.

Mount Maunganui walking track

Mount Maunganui Main Beach

Mount Maunganui beach was voted the best beach in New Zealand and ranks among the top 25 best beaches in the world. It’s a popular swimming spot as the water is around 21 degrees in the summer months. Despite it looking calm, it’s a favoured hangout for surfers and bodyboarders. Volunteer lifeguards patrol the beach during the busy months, so remember to swim between the flags. The bay is sandy, making it an ideal place to relax and watch the world go by.

There are some lovely cafes across the road if you fancy a coffee or snack.

Mount Maunganui Main Beach. A good day trip from Tauranga

Pilot Bay

Another popular place to swim is on the other side of Mount Maunganui. The sheltered waters of Pilot Bay also has a sandy beach and provides lovely views to look out at.

Mount Maunaanui and pilot bay day trip from Tauranga

Shopping

The shopping strip is filled with boutique stores selling clothes, surf brands, gifts, books, as well as health stores, pharmacies, banks and art galleries. 

Mount Maunganui Hot Pools

If you can’t make it to Rotorua and want to experience the hot pools, then this is the place for you. There are two large pools with varying temperatures, as well as the spas and children’s pool. You can also hire a private pool and massages are available too. The admission is very reasonable with adults around NZD15. You can book online on the Mount Hot Pools website.

Day Trips from Tauranga option 2 – Tauranga

Catch the bus to Tauranga, which departs from the i-SITE office at the port and takes 20 minutes to get to the centre of town.

Tauranga Port

Tauranga Art Gallery

This art gallery opens at 10 am and costs NZD7 per person to enter. More details and examples of the exhibits can be found on the Tauranga Art Gallery website.

Street Art

Take a walk around the town and see if you can spot the many pieces of street art. Check out Spring Street, Grey Street service lane, Drive Crescent, The Strand, and Cameron Road.

The Elms Mission House

This historic house was built for Reverend Alfred Nesbit Brown and was completed in 1847. It is a great example of Georgian architecture and is one of the oldest buildings in New Zealand. The grounds are open every day and free to enter; however, there is a small entry fee to the house.

The Elms Mission House

Day Trips from Tauranga option 3

Various shore excursions leave from the Tauranga cruise port. These are some of the most popular tours and a few of my favourites.

Tauranga Shore Excursion: Rotorua Highlights

This full-day Rotorua shore excursion includes pickup from the cruise port in Tauranga, where you will travel to Rotorua. On the way, you stop at Te Puke, considered New Zealand’s kiwifruit capital, to learn more about this special fruit. Next, you’ll have a short walk to Okere Falls and stop for lunch by Lake Rotorua (own expense) before visiting the thermal wonderland of Whakarewarewa. Here you’ll follow your Maori guide through a lunar-like landscape of hot springs and mud pools and see the eruption of Pohutu Geyser. Your guide will explain how the indigenous people used the bubbling springs for everyday uses.

The last part of the tour is sightseeing in Rotorua city, where you will view the Government Gardens, historical bathhouse, and natural hot springs at Whangapipiro (Rachel’s Pool) as well as Lake Tarawera if time allows.

Worry-free Shore Excursion: Viator will ensure your timely return to the Tauranga port for this activity. In the rare event, your ship has departed, we will arrange for transportation to the next port of call. If your ship is delayed and you cannot attend this activity, your money will be refunded.

Read more here.

picturesque waterfall
Okere Falls

Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Movie Set Tour

You’ll be collected from Tauranga cruise port on this Lord of the Rings Tour and driven about an hour to the Hobbiton Movie Set. Located on rolling farmland that depicts the Shire, a region inhabited by hobbits in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you will have a close-up look behind the scenes of Peter Jackson’s famous film trilogies. Have your photo taken in front of the hobbit holes and see the double-arched bridge, the Mill and the party tree, where Bilbo had his farewell birthday party.

After leaving Hobbiton, you will stop at McLaren Falls Park for a bushwalk to the waterfall. Here your guide will provide cloaks, hats, and swords so you can dress up as your favourite character from The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, posing for photos against this scenic backdrop.

On the return to the Tauranga port, you’ll make a quick stop to taste New Zealand manuka honey, try local ice cream, or stop at a beach if time permits.

This is another Worry-free Shore Excursion Tour by Viator (see above).

Read more here.

Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Movie Set Tour Including Rotorua Sightseeing

Another option is to combine visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set with Rotorua. On this tour, you will also learn traditional customs at the Maori village of Whakarewarewa before seeing the spouting geysers and steaming hot springs of thermal Rotorua.

Read more about this tour here.

hobbiton movie set

Small-Group Rotorua Shore Excursion From Tauranga

This 6-hour shore excursion to Rotorua, which includes port pick up and drop off a guide, and air-conditioned transport, will have a maximum of 16 travellers. You’ll visit Kuirau Park to walk through the park to see the steaming lakes and the location of the last eruption here in 2001. This is followed by a quick stop at Sulphur Point on the edge of Lake Rotorua to see the effect the geothermal activity has on the lake. Next on the list is Government Gardens, the Rotorua Bathhouse and Museum location, the famous Blue Baths, and the naturally occurring Rachel’s Spring, which is the source of the geothermal water for the Polynesian Spa.

The last stop is a kiwifruit orchard to sample some of the many products derived from this iconic fruit.

Due to the tour only being six hours, you will only get a sample of what Rotorua has to offer. If you want to see more of this area, I suggest a longer tour.

historic baths building
Blue Baths Rotorua

Rotorua Geothermal Geyser Tour and Polynesian Spa

If you want to pamper yourself, how about a visit to the Polynesian Spa as part of this Rotorua Geothermal Geyser Tour? First, you will visit Whakarewarewa, where you experience a fascinating tour of the valley and learn about Maori culture while watching a traditional Maori cultural performance. Witness the legendary Pōhutu Geyser, the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere, which can erupt to a height of 100 feet (30-meters) and as often as 20 times per day.

You then head to The Polynesian Spa, a geothermal bathing retreat. Renowned for its healing waters and therapies, you can experience the elite private facilities of the Polynesian Spa’s geothermal hot mineral waters. The slightly acidic Priest Spring waters relieve tired muscles, aches, and pains, while the alkaline waters of the Rachel Spring nourish the skin.

You will be returned to Tauranga Port, guaranteed to be back in plenty of time for your ship’s departure. See photos here.

traditional Maori dancing
The cultural performance at Whakarewarewa Village

Tauranga Weather

February is the warmest month of the year, whereas July is the coldest. March has the most rain while February has the least.

Cruise Schedule

Here you can find a list of the cruises coming to Tauranga.

For more information to help you plan your New Zealand holiday, read our New Zealand Travel Guide which provides lots of valuable information, including what to do, where to go, and travel tips.


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view of mount maunganui day trips from tauranga

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